This past Saturday, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History opened its doors to a traveling exhibition of dinosaur eggs.
The newest Peabody exhibit, entitled “Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies,” features over 150 dinosaur eggs, colorful murals, life-like fossil puzzles, hands-on models, videos of world-leading paleontologists, interactive games and live emu eggs. Many of the displays capture the evolutionary connection between dinosaurs and birds, examining the revolution in scientific thought surrounding the behaviors and parenting styles of dinosaurs as compared to their living descendants. The exhibit traces the major discoveries of dinosaur eggs, beginning with the first finding of an egg in the Gobi Desert in 1923.
“[That discovery] was the first planting of the seed that these things were more than just big scary monsters,” said Richard Kissel, the director of public programs at the Peabody. “They had a softer side to them as well. It confirmed that they laid eggs like many reptiles do and it gave us a window into the biology.”
The exhibit focuses on the major dinosaur groups that lived during the Mesozoic era and features eggs from prominent classes of dinosaurs from the period, including the meat-eating dinosaurs, the long-necked dinosaurs, the horned dinosaurs and the duck-billed dinosaurs. Kissel said the exhibit highlights characteristics of dinosaurs shared with descendent species of birds, from different types of nesting, egg shapes and sizes to distinct parenting habits.
In a Peabody-created video being shown as part of the exhibit, curator of vertebrate paleontology Jacques Gauthier said scientists can still discover dinosaur eggs in the fossil record thanks to their hard shells. Gauthier added that learning about dinosaur behavior from fossil records is challenging, and one way around the difficulty is examining birds as living descendants.
At the back of the exhibit, the vibrantly colorful Emu eggs, which are similar to many dinosaur eggs in size, are expected to hatch during the week of March 10. While Emus are expected to grow up to six feet in height, the exhibit can only keep them for a couple of weeks when they are small, during which time anyone can follow their development via webcam on the Peabody’s website.
“It was difficult to get the permits for the emus because Yale is very strict and takes certain precautions when it comes to live animals,” said Laura Friedman, who helped to design the Peabody exhibit.
While many exhibits must protect their specimens behind glass, Friedman said the dinosaur exhibit encourages visitors to interact with many of the displays. Children have the opportunity to dig for their own dinosaur eggs, and show off their dinosaur knowledge through a series of questions displayed around the exhibit.
Peabody security guard Michael Meehan said he has noted a spike in attendance since the exhibit opened on Saturday.
“It’s good to have an exhibit that’s so colorful and kid friendly,” Meehan said. “It makes it so much easier as a guard not having to tell people they can’t touch the displays.”
The exhibit is scheduled to run from Feb. 8 to Aug. 30, 2014.